A lot of dog owners, hearing reports of filler ingredients, high sugar counts, and terrible nutrition stats, decide they’ll be better off making their own dog food. While this is admirable, and it can be done, it’s not quite as simple as it is making food for ourselves. Read on to get some tips to make dog food that’s healthy and nutritious for your beloved pooch.
How to Start
It’s very important that the food you make has the nutrients your dog needs to stay healthy. Dogs have very different nutritional needs than humans, so it’s not going to be as simple as cooking up some chicken and putting it in your dog’s bowl. It’s a delicate balance, because you also need to make sure the food tastes good enough for your dog to eat it.
Start by talking to your veterinarian. Different dogs have different nutritional needs, and you’ll want to get this right. Not only do different dogs have different needs, but the circumstances your dog lives in will make a difference as well. If your dog is old, obese, pregnant, nursing, still a puppy, highly energetic, etc he’ll have different needs.
Work with your vet to figure out exactly what your dog needs. And if your dog is a puppy, keep in mind that his nutritional needs will change as he gets older, and your recipes will have to change along with him.
What nutrients does your dog need to stay healthy? There are six basic ingredients you need to have in your dog’s food in a specific ratio in order to keep your pup healthy.
Just like with humans, carbohydrates are a primary source of energy. In commercial dog food, these are usually found in vegetables, grain, or fiber. If you’re going to use fiber, keep an eye on your dog. Some dogs can’t digest fiber correctly and it can cause them to not absorb the rest of the nutrients correctly.
Protein – Store-bought dog food usually gets its protein from corn, wheat, chicken, or fish. This doesn’t mean it’s good quality. It doesn’t even mean that it’s actually present in any large amounts. Manufacturers get away with not using whole ingredients by using very specific terms in their ingredient labels. Terms like “chicken product” or “beef chunks”. Which are probably as gross as they sound.
There are 22 essential amino acids, 10 of which are not produced naturally by your dog and will need to be considered when creating your recipe. The 10 you’ll need to add are histidine, valine, tryptophan, lysine, isoleucine, aginine, threonine, phynylalanine, leucine, and methionine. Not making sure your dog food includes these nutrients can cause impaired growth, reduced appetite, and other physical symptoms.
There are 2 different groups of minerals that will need to be included in your foods. The first group includes small amounts of copper, manganese, chromium, iron, zinc, cobalt, iodine, molybdenum, and fluorine. You’ll need larger amounts of calcium, potassium, phosphorus, sodium, and magnesium. Minerals like this are exactly why you should never undertake making your own dog food without talking to your vet. You’ll want to be sure you’re getting the right amounts of each of these minerals to keep your dog healthy.
Most of the vitamins a dog needs to thrive are not produced naturally in the dog’s body and will need to be added to their food. There are 2 main types of vitamins to account for – fat-soluble and water-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins needs to be replenished each day. Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the dog’s body. These include vitamins A, D, E, and K. Too much of these can be toxic, so this is another aspect of homemade dog food you’ll need to discuss with your vet to be sure you’re getting it exactly right.
Fats and oils in dog food keep your dog’s coat shiny and his skin and nails healthy. They also help with the fat-soluble vitamins we discussed above. The absolute minimum amount you need is 5%, but most dog food, whether homemade or commercially manufactured usually has closer to 15%-30%.
Keep in mind, though, that just like with humans, the majority of the calories in your food are in the fats and the oils, so portion them out carefully.
This is a given. Your dog needs water every day – lots and lots of water. In his food, in his water bowl, and anywhere else you can get it.
If you’re going to make your dog’s food yourself, be sure to talk to your vet before you begin and during the process so you can make sure you’re getting the ratio correct of everything you need. And stay in contact with your vet as your dog grows and ages so you can can continue to give your dog the best food for his needs.